St. Tropez's celebrity magnet
When Roger Vadim shot And God Created Woman with his young protégée Brigitte Bardot in 1956, little did anyone imagine that the film’s overnight success would put this tiny fishing port of pink stacked houses on the map forever. The myth of St. Tropez — a hedonistic playground for the wealthy and the glamorous — began to draw a sophisticated international crowd.
In 1967, Lebanese billionaire Jean-Prosper Gay-Para opened a wildly extravagant palace, Hotel Excelsior, on the highest hill of St. Tropez. According to local lore, Gay-Para was enamored with Bardot, and apparently was heartbroken when the actress married Gunter Sachs the same year. He then sold it on a whim to French entrepreneur Sylvain Floirat, who renamed the sprawling 6,000-square-foot property Hotel Byblos Saint-Tropez.
These days, Antoine Chevanne, Floirat’s great grandson, is at the helm of this landmark hotel, which still draws celebrities and jet-setters in peak season, especially to its nightclub — the hottest in St. Tropez.
Take advantage of the ideal location of this palm- and fountain-filled hamlet of pink and ochre fisherman’s cottages, done up in a lavish Byzantine-meets-Provencal decor. Wander around the village elbow-to-elbow with the summer crowds or laze by the peaceful pool.
Expect ultra-professional service without the formality of other French Riviera hotels, and a concierge who will arrange anything that your heart desires.
Our Inspector’s Highlights
• The hotel’s legendary exclusive nightclub, Les Caves du Roy, opened in the late ’60s. It still attracts visiting VIPs, playboys, fashionistas and rock and cinema stars who sip Dom Pérignon and gyrate on the packed dance floor until dawn.
• Every Tuesday and Saturday, at Alain Ducasse’s Rivea, chef Vincent Maillard offers cooking classes that begin with a trip to the celebrated Provencal market on the neighboring square, Place des Lices.
• Conceived as a mini-village, the hotel has its own private alley of luxury boutiques from brands like watchmakers Audemars Piguet and Missoni homewares.
What to Know
• As is the case with most French hotels, breakfast is included with your nightly rate.
• Byblos opens seasonally, from mid-April to mid-October.
• The boutique hotel sits close to Place de Lices, St. Tropez’s main town square. The nearest beach is a 10-minute stroll away, though Byblos also offers a shuttle to transport you to the sand.
• If you’re arriving by car from Nice, it’s technically an hour and a half drive to the exit at Le Muy, but the summer-traffic-clogged RN98 leading down to the peninsula of St. Tropez can be hellish. Best bet: Drive early in the morning or late at night or take the longer winding mountain road through La Garde-Freinet and follow the signs to St. Tropez.
• The 91 rooms and suites all vary in shapes, colors and sizes, decked out with sunny hues and a medley of flowers, stripes and prints.
•For the full splashy experience, splurge on the duplexes with outdoor showers on their private terraces and cavernous bathrooms.
• Sumptuously refurbished, the sunlit centrally located almost 2,000-square-foot Riviera suite boasts a sprawling sitting room directly above the inner courtyard and the pool, in the heart of the action.
• At the foot of the St. Tropez hotel, Rivea is decorated chef Alain Ducasse’s Tropezian-style eatery, a chic but relaxed bistro featuring ultra-fresh Ligurian and Provencal haute comfort food.
• Rivea chef Vincent Maillard whips up delicious platters of everything from octopus salad to gourmet mini-pizza, meant to be shared on the leafy terrace. If you’re not planning to club-hop right away, indulge in some of the heartier dishes, like the spit-roasted duckling or seared Sisteron lamb.
• Be sure to stay for dessert at Rivea. Dig into the heavenly tarte tropezienne, an orange-flower-spiked custard cake.
• There’s no need to venture too far from your sunbed at the peaceful poolside, since the all-day casual B restaurant, in the lemon-tree-shaded patio, serves a terrific choice of cocktails, tapas and flavorful local dishes from copious salads to fresh grilled fish.
• Since French skincare brand Sisley is at the helm of the spa, facials are a good choice among the treatment list.
• For some relaxation, spend some time in the luxury hotel spa’s hammam.
• Everything from the lavish marble and mosaic décor to the high-tech tropical rain showers (expect flashing lights, chirping birds, disco rhythms and jungle aroma-infused mists) is all part of the Byblos party-on-the-Mediterranean spirit.
• Don’t miss a post-treatment mint tea in the spa’s Lebanese salon, decked out in ancient wood décor from a 16th-century Beirut palace.